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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Great Cities With Green Solutions

Driving a car is the most polluting act an average citizen commits. Cars have two opposite personalities. One is friendly and attractive the other is destructive and can be lethal. The desire to own a car is linked to pleasure, sexuality, convenience and freedom. Men lust for big, prestigious cars the way they lust for women and women desire men with big, prestigious cars. In major cities and large towns throughout the world, motor vehicles cause a wide range of air pollution problems. Fossil fuel combustion, particularly as it occurs in motor vehicles, has been identified as the LARGEST contributor to air pollution in the WORLD. Exhaust from all combustion engines combine to produce local adverse effects on the health of car users and all innocent bystanders. Cities have become islands of toxic chemicals from the unrestrained use of vehicles burning fossil fuels. The adverse health effects of car exhaust are pervasive and difficult to measure. Pollution by cars causes lung cancer, respiratory problems, urban smog, and acid rain.

The Mayor of Paris has launch a novel scheme for fighting congestion and pollution: self-service cars. He aims to start with 2,000 electric-powered vehicles that subscribers can drive off without booking at dozens of sites 24 hours a day and then leave anywhere in the city. It is intended to complement the highly successful bicycle scheme that he opened last July with 5,000 rental stations around the city. The non-polluting cars, which will cost a few euros per hour to use, depending on mileage, will enable Parisians to carry passengers and loads on short trips without the bother and expense of hiring or running their own vehicles, says the mayor. The only worry is that Parisians could drop their new-found cycling habit. He has already turned Paris into the biggest bike-friendly city in Europe, with the 20,000 machines having already been used for 11 million trips so far. The mayor, who gets around Paris in a tiny electric-powered car, has already promoted a car-sharing scheme.

China’s efforts to curb air pollution by restricting driving within Beijing city limits was quite a success, so government officials sought to extend the benefits by continuing the traffic limits. The Chinese government has taken to offering up to $3,600 to give up heavily polluting vehicles, and even giving drivers more money to purchase cleaner cars. The amount of compensation given to drivers giving up heavily polluted vehicles depends on the size, type and age of the vehicle – and payment will be prorated, so the sooner they give up the offending car, the more money they get. It’s a commendable plan, especially since it will likely raise demand for cleaner cars, giving China’s auto industry a greater incentive to build them. It’s nice to see that after years of very little action – and ever-higher greenhouse gas emissions – China is doing something real to address the problem of air pollution in Beijing.

In New Delhi comes a smart de-congestion plan - a mega carpool that harnesses the latest in technology. The Delhi government plans to launch the Pan City Mega Carpool Scheme before the Commonwealth Games 2010. The Delhi government has proposed to enroll thousands of car owners, subject to verification of their credentials, into a single mega carpool and issue the members secure, smart identity cards as well. The cars of all members will be fitted with a special hardware device comprising of a card reader, global positioning system (GPS) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). The device can read the smart card based photo identity card of a member, sense the location of the car and transmit this data digitally to a central agency. The rider is only required to tap the smart ID card at the beginning as well as the end of the ride and all the information regarding the driver and the rider would be sent to the central server. A member of the carpool scheme may give a ride to any of the enrolled members who have a common or along-the-way travel destination. The scheme plans to reduce traffic congestion and vehicular pollution by 50 percent or more. Mega Car Pool is more than a car pool system. It is an alternative transport mode which can give you immense comfort and ease in traveling and reduce travel cost and time significantly. Mega Car Pool is your best solution to end killing road congestion and endless parking problem.

What Can we do? Drive Less. Both local and global pollution would be reduced if each car-driving person pledged to use their car 30% less starting immediately. This is a responsible, individual contribution to a global problem. At least 30% of vehicle is optional - either recreational or lazy driving when walking, cycling or public transit would be a better choice. The use of cars must be re-defined. Car use has to be considered a privilege, not a right. Recreational driving can be reduced immediately. In the immediate future reduced car use is the best solution. But changing car-users' habits doesn't seem likely any time soon, as the failure of carpool lanes in USA makes clear. Commuters can drive in this lane only if there are at least two people in the vehicle. But these lanes don't always succeed in encouraging carpooling. Basically, it didn't. It strikes as really crazy. They are willing to sit there, stuck hopelessly in traffic, for the 'luxury' of being the only person in their vehicle. All this has to change if we want to save this planet from pollution. We have to curb our craving for big cars and curtail our driving time to only essential need to drive. And one more thing, let us all salute Paris, Beijing and New Delhi, which have come up with their own unique solutions to the problem created by car pollution. These are truly great cities with green solutions.


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